ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) on Friday said it has started a consultative process with provinces to finalise the wheat support price ahead of the 2022-23 wheat crop.

Chairing a meeting on wheat support price, Minister for National Food Security and Research, Tariq Bashir Cheema said the proposals from the provinces on support price should be profitable for the farmers. “A profitable support price would provide relief to the flood-affected farmers and help them recover their losses,” he added.

The meeting was of the view that the announcement of profitable support price well before the wheat sowing season will encourage growers to increase area under cultivation, and this could result in the curtailment of $1 billion for the import of the grain.

The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet will take a final decision on the minimum wheat support price after proposals from the provinces are received by the MNFSR.

Mr Cheema said the import of wheat for building strategic reserves is putting unnecessary stress on the country’s precious foreign exchange and, therefore, the productivity of wheat and area under cultivation need to be enhanced.

Wheat production fell by nearly 4 per cent in 2021-22, to 26.394 million tonnes, compared to 27.464m tonnes in 2020-21. The major reasons for the decline in wheat production was due to reduction in area sown; shortfall in irrigation water and drought conditions at sowing; less fertiliser off-take and heat wave in March and April, though the government has increased the minimum support price to Rs2,200 per 40kg in 2021-22, aligned to the cost of production.

The meeting was of the view that the cost of land preparation for cultivation during the coming rabi season will be higher because of the destruction caused by the recent floods.

The minister expressed his grief over the loss caused to farmers due to extensive rainfall and floods in the country. “It is a hard time for the farmers as floods brought disaster for the agriculture sector. The ministry will do whatever it can to provide relief to the flood victims,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2022

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